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[infowar.de] LAT 5.09.04 (Blogs) The View From on the Ground
Frage meinerseits, gibt es auch Bundeswehrsoldaten, die aus Afghanistan,
Kosovo, Bosnien oder vom Horn von Africa berichten? Ich habe noch nichts
gesehen. Für Infos wäre ich dankbar. Bitte per mail an mich.
The View From on the Ground
With American bloggers reporting on life in Iraq, the war is only a
mouse click away
September 5, 2004
Other wars produced poetry and novels and memoirs. But the war in Iraq
has brought a new kind of literature. In real time, on the Internet,
officers and enlisted men and women are chronicling the war on weblogs —
better known as blogs. Two weeks ago, one of the most popular war
bloggers, a soldier stationed near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul who
identified himself only as CBFTW, was disciplined by the Army for
violating "operational security." His gritty postings described both the
terror and boredom of war. Last week, he removed them from his "My War"
website. But the journals of many other military bloggers remain on the
Web. Here are edited excerpts from the blogs of Americans serving with
the U.S. military in Iraq.
A 'festering sore'
Lt. Col. David G. Bellon was commissioned as an officer in the Marine
Corps in 1990 after graduating from law school. He remained on active
duty until 1998, then continued as a reserve officer while building a
law practice in Oceanside. In January 2003, he went to Iraq to serve in
the infantry during the invasion. He returned home in September of last
year and was sent back to Iraq in February 2004. Bellon, who is serving
in the volatile Sunni Triangle, has a wife and two children, ages 4 and
6. He hopes to be home by Christmas. His family maintains a website,
http://www.thegreenside.com , on which they post Bellon's letters to his
Aug. 17, 2004
My regiment has been involved in a fight outside of Fallouja for the
On August 9th, insurgents in the city kidnapped the two Iraqi National
Guard battalion commanders within the city, subsequently killing at
least one of them. It is another clear example of the savagery of the
enemy here. The city is now without any coalition influence other than
us. The local militia that was created as a solution to the April
fighting has become a defensive army that is in collusion with the
insurgents. The police are complicit with the enemy and the city is
literally run by terrorists.
The Iraqi National Guard battalion commander who was killed was Lt. Col.
Sulaiman Hamad Ftikan. We knew him as Sulaiman. He was the closest thing
to a true patriot and leader we have found who is actually from the
local Fallouja area. He was kidnapped and murdered because he had
finally gotten his battalion to stand up to the criminals and insurgents
who have had their run of the city all these months.
Of course his murder was not merciful. He was tortured and beaten to
death. He was so disfigured by the torture that his friends could not
bear to look at his body.
The city has continued to be an epicenter of terror and instability.
With everything that I know, I cannot fathom a resolution of this
problem that does not include us being allowed to take the city down
once and for all. Time and space does not allow me to recount the
horrible tales of torture and murder that have taken place inside this town.
The Marines, meanwhile, continue their heroics. I could share with you
accounts of severely wounded Sailors and Marines insisting that they can
still hold a weapon and are still "in the fight" and other lesser
wounded Marines refusing to be evacuated. There are Marines who exit
friendly lines every day and commit acts of untold bravery that would
inspire you as much as they humble me.
The difference between now and April is that the majority of Iraqis that
we meet now ask us to enter the city. They are tired of the lawless hell
that exists inside the city and are literally willing to have us rubble
it to save it. I know it sounds strange but it is the reality here.
We also have an entire battalion of Iraqi Special Forces soldiers who
have stepped forward. We have trained these guys and they are a
different breed of cat altogether. They don't necessarily love us but
they now have a bond with the Marines and operate jointly with them
everyday. They shake their head at the hesitancy to resolve Fallouja and
are willing to fight inside the city. It will be a very tough fight but
in the end I just don't see how we can move forward as a coalition, or
Iraq as a fledgling country, while this festering sore remains open.
'Getting settled in'
Beth is a 28-year-old lab Navy lab technician with a husband and a
1-year-old son named Cody back home. She arrived in Iraq late last
month. Her blog, "A Labrat's Journey," is at
August 30, 2004
Pretty good day
It was pretty calm yesterday and not too bad today. We are getting
settled in and wondering when the others are coming. The group we are
replacing can't wait to leave. For a short period of time, until the
turnover, we have to double up in our rooms. The sunrise and sunsets are
very pretty from here. That is about the only beautiful thing, though.
The laundry is taking about five days to come back instead of overnight
due to some people up and quitting. Last night they had lobster and
steak for dinner. Everyone was so happy. Not quite my cup of tea,
though. I ate a PowerBar. I am still leery of the food here but
hopefully that changes — or I get lots of food in the mail. We have
microwaves and can openers. I need a bowl with a lid. Got the webcam
thing figured out and got to see Cody last night — made me cry for
hours. He has already grown to be such a big boy, his hair is longer and
he has gained weight.
Paul Rieckhoff enlisted in the Army Reserves upon graduating from
Amherst College in 1998. After completing an officer's training course
in 2002, he volunteered for active duty. He was sent to Iraq in 2003 and
was based in Baghdad for 10 months conducting combat operations. All 38
members of Rieckhoff's platoon returned home safely. Now off active
duty, the former first lieutenant has started Operation Truth, a
"nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to educate the American
public about the truth of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the
perspective of the soldiers who have experienced them firsthand." The
following posting from Rieckhoff is one of many on his group's website,
I sit down to take yet another irregular dump on our rickety, unstable,
fly-infested "throne." A nice moment precariously situating my bum on
the remnants of a folding chair. I become aware that our building has
just reached minute 120 of our two hours of allotted electricity. Chunk!
Darkness. The generator is down today — again — so there is no hope of
waiting this one out. There is a lovely little waste basket of
overflowing, used toilet paper and baby-wipes next to my size 11½ desert
Sadly, I have prepared for this — knowing the grid rotation, we are not
due power for another six sweltering hours. Therefore, most of us — the
shrewd ones — always carry a flashlight in our cargo pockets. I have of
course run out of batteries. But I have a back-up plan. The really
cunning enemies of discomfort and inconvenience — like yours truly —
also store a chemical light in those deep
American-made-by-the-lowest-bidder pockets. Yes, one of those favorite
little friends of soldiers and ravers worldwide — the orange chemlight!
I crack that sucker satisfyingly as the guy getting a haircut in the
next room rants and someone elsewhere in the building stubs yet another
toe on a weapon, or a helmet, or a private. I am sitting on a
hollowed-out folding chair by orange artificial light hoping a
super-sized rat doesn't decide to improve Iraqi-American relations at
this precise moment in time. And I am strangely happy about it. They
don't pay us enough for this I am sure.
We deserve a parade for having to endure this alone.
Speak, pause, response
Sean Pearce enlisted in the Army in 1998. He served six years in the
Signal Corps as a satellite technician, with tours in Kandahar,
Afghanistan, and at Camp Victory, the main U.S. military complex near
Baghdad airport. He returned to the U.S. in September 2003. He now lives
in Virginia, where he works in communications and plans to complete his
college education. He has now married the girlfriend he writes about in
this excerpt. His Iraq blog is at http://www.turningtables.blogspot.com .
August 5, 2003
Tonight I got to talk to my girlfriend via visual teleconferencing. It
went really well. I waited around until the middle of the night, and
then I was escorted into the area where all the magic happens, past
giant wall-sized television screens with maps and diagrams, past rows
and rows of desks with computers and soldiers working around the clock
on the war effort, and into the conference room, which was exactly that.
I'm so used to seeing rooms and quarters converted into conference
rooms. They are set up in kitchens or garages or boiler rooms. But this
one was an honest-to-god conference room that I'm sure was used by
Saddam and all of his buddies. Now it belongs to us, because we took it.
As I stroll in, the family of the sergeant who went before me is still
on the giant screen. I see his wife trying desperately to keep her
composure and get her three kids out of the room where they were filmed
in an orderly fashion. Then, in the corner of the screen coming through
the doorway is a very distorted shape that the camera is trying to focus
on. It walks like my girlfriend. It's the same size as my girlfriend.
And it is my girlfriend. She giggles, and I wave and smile.
I have to press a foot switch every time I want to speak so that the
microphone turns off. Otherwise the delay will cause a killer echo.
There is at least a 15-second delay that makes normal conversation
useless. Speak. Pause. Pause. Pause. Pause. Response. But she is there
and she can hear me and I can see her.
She's wearing the Curious George shirt I bought her on the Universal
City Walk in L.A. It fits her perfectly, and her hair is beautiful.
She's had three hair cuts since I left, but luckily she sends me
pictures, so I stay up to date with the girlfriend fashions.
We have this silly thing that we do. It started one night when we were
at a rave in L.A. To the beat, I say "girlfriend" while I nod my head.
Then I say "run in place," which I do to the beat. It's a sign of my
affection. So there I am, in Baghdad, Iraq, running in place in Saddam's
conference room so that my girlfriend can watch me on the other side of
I showed her my muscles, my big ol' arms that are twice the size as when
I left. She was impressed — or she at least faked it for me. She's a
I left hating this place more then ever, but also feeling a bit more
relaxed. I made it to my cot, and I sweated off into sleep. This is
The brave, the spider-men
Sean Dustman is a Navy medical corpsman who served for seven years
during the 1990s, then reenlisted after Sept. 11 because he "realized my
talents were going to waste, and I wanted to make a difference." He
arrived in Iraq in March and returned home late last month. His blog can
be found at http://www.docinthebox.blogspot.com
June 19, 2004
It's surprising how much wildlife we've run into. Every night we find a
bigger camel spider, and the Marines gather around and say "Wow, that's
the biggest one I've ever seen," which leads to other sorts of fights.
They'll catch scorpions and other bugs and toss them in. They tossed a
mouse in once and you could hear the cheering from hundreds of yards
away. Marines are just big kids. Take them to a body of water, and
they'll be happy skipping stones for hours; give them a magnifying
glass, they'll find an ant hole. If they invade your country, expect
silly stuff to be written on all the walls. We've run into snakes both
venomous and non. I'm glad I was the only one that spotted the
non-venomous one. I took its picture and let it go on it's way. I'm not
much into killing things. Things I've found out? Scorpions do glow under
black light. Camel spiders have ten legs and two eyes and are not even
related to true spiders. And don't ever use a k-bar knife alone to kill
a venomous snake.
'To do right by Allah"
Nicholas J. Cademartori is a 22-year-old infantryman with the Army's 1st
Infantry Division. After four years in the National Guard, he asked to
be released from his Guard contract so he could join the regular Army.
He has been in Iraq since March. His blog can be found at
May 7 and May 24, 2004
One thing I always notice about old war movies is that soldiers always
attach a slang word to their enemy that has some negative connotations.
In WWI and II, it was Kraut. Vietnam, it was the gooks. Out here, it is
"Hadji," like in the old Jonny Quest cartoons. All people out here are
Hadji. No malice to it: It is just what we call them.
The other day, a sergeant and I were told to take our truck and go and
pull security. This is generally a very dull job (thank god). So we went
out and were just sitting peacefully when we saw a middle aged Iraqi
farmer in his field waving to us. Curious, I went to investigate while
my buddy covered me with the 50 cal.
When I reached his field it became obvious that the man did not speak
English. He was tall and thin, and smiled continuously. He had a small
plot of land with a little shack off in the corner of the fields, and a
slow shallow stream ran down the middle for irrigation. You could tell
that this was this man's life, his entire livelihood.
He held a tomato out to me, it was not entirely ripe, and a little
misshapen, but it appeared entirely edible. I took it, since it is rude
here to refuse food. He seemed ecstatic about this, and hurriedly began
rooting through his fields for ripe tomatoes.
Hadji vendors love to give you the product first, let you take a few
bites, then give you the price. I took out all the money I had — one
quarter — and offered it to him in exchange for five or six tomatoes,
anything not to seem rude. He pushed aside my meager offering and
offered me an eggplant.
Once I realized he didn't want money, I was very curious what he was
doing. I mean, was this some kind of tribute he would pay to Iraqi
soldiers under Saddam? Was he trying to bribe me to do something for
him? He signed that he wanted me to try the tomato, and pointed to the
brook and made washing gestures. I washed myself a little and the
tomato, then gave it a shot, eating it like it was an apple. It was
By this point he had collected up quite a batch of tomatoes and an
eggplant in his robe, and he wanted to take them over to my truck for my
buddy. I asked if he was sure he didn't want any money. He shook his
head and pointed up. "For Allah?" I said, and he nodded and said
"Allah." He was doing it to be a good man. To do right by Allah. By this
simple act, he touched me deeply. He gave me faith in the people of
Iraq. He let me know that what we have done here is appreciated, and
that these people and I are not so far apart.
I will never believe that my enemy is unredeemable. I will never believe
that all Iraqis are the enemy. But I can have no faith in man untested,
and truth be told, I have never gotten a truly unselfish vibe from
anyone in this country no matter where I've been. They want desperately
to take advantage of soldiers' paychecks. But this man living in a shack
off the main road has become the first Iraqi I have met since coming
here who didn't. And I hope to God that we don't let him down.
Daddy & son
Army Pfc. Brian McGovern ( http://www.brian.mcgovernville.com ) has been
serving as a paralegal near Baghdad since June. His first child,
Vincent, was born July 9. McGovern will see him for the first time this
week, when he starts a 15-day leave.
July 27, 2004
I heard "Cat's in the Cradle" this afternoon, the song by Harry Chapin.
It's that song that talks about how a guy had a kid and put off spending
time with him. Eventually, the kid grows up to be just like him, never
finding the time to hang out and have a good time as father and son.
One of the things that we had planned to do was, every Saturday I would
let my wife sleep in and wheel the baby in the stroller up to the coffee
shop and have some daddy & son bonding time. It's kinda sappy, but it
tore me up to hear that song today, because I'm thinking, "But I would
spend time with my son if I could! I promise!" I was raised by some
great parents. My dad had (still has, in fact) a job where he'd have to
go out of town quite a bit, but never for more than a few days. My
favorite childhood memories were of Saturdays, when my dad and I would
go do stuff.
I want to be the kind of father that my dad has been to me. There are so
many guys who get women pregnant and just take off. And here I am,
wanting nothing more than to be there, and can't.
Koka Sexton, who was a team leader in the 341st Military Police Company
>from San Jose, enlisted in the Army Reserves because he believes "that
everyone should do something to support their country." He got his call
to go to Iraq on Feb. 14, 2003, and "by June 1 was in the desert
realizing that the Army Reserves was more than one weekend a month." He
posted the following to his blog, "A Walk Through the Valley of the
Shadow of Death,"(www.kokasexton.com) after arriving back home earlier
August 1, 2004
Getting back to feeling normal is harder than it sounds. What is normal?
I can barely remember what my life was like before I left for Iraq. I
have memories of loved ones and friends that carried me through the hard
times overseas but other than that, most of pre-war life is a blur. I
find myself walking through the city waiting for the next gun shot or
explosion. Driving a car is still an adventure. For no reason whatsoever
I have moments where I feel like a coiled spring ready to snap. Tension
building up in every muscle preparing for the chance to explode on what
stands in my way. Neurotic? Maybe.
I miss my rifle and the security that it gave me when I was walking
through unknown areas. I knew in Iraq that my life was in my hands. As
long as I was prepared for the attack, I had a chance to get them before
they got me. I'm always thinking about the "what if" now, because in
Iraq preparing for the "what if" made me better able to deal with the
next roadside bomb or rocket being fired in my direction. Being prepared
could make the difference between life and death. Not that I have the
same concerns now that I am home, but my mind races with other concerns
One day at a time, I keep telling myself. Then I laugh. Maybe I should
make a personal threat indicator that I carry in my pocket and update it
as I feel necessary. Today, I feel Orange.
Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times
HSFK Hessische Stiftung für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
PRIF Peace Research Institute Frankfurt
Leimenrode 29 60322 Frankfurt a/M Germany
Tel +49 (0)69 9591 0422 Fax +49 (0)69 5584 81
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